Sidney walked out of the bathroom after washing his hands and made his way through the line of people waiting for their cones. He’d never seen so many people in line for ice cream before. The line wound around a stanchion and was almost out the door.
When he finally got outside he found Misty standing near the bench they’d been sitting on in front of a guy. He noticed that Misty’s body language was completely different from anything he’d ever seen before. Her eyes were cast down at the sidewalk, her body was tense, and her hands were fidgeting like crazy. Something wasn’t right there.
“I guess I just never expected to see you back here,” the guy was saying when Sidney reached them. Misty just shrugged in response, avoiding eye contact with the guy.
“Is everything okay?” Sidney asked Misty, looking warily at the other guy. Her head shot up and he saw something in her eyes he’d never seen before. Fear?
“Why wouldn’t it be?” the guy asked, sizing him up. Sidney had an immediate aversion to this guy. Something told him he wasn’t good news.
“I just wanted to make sure,” Sidney said, putting his hands up in a signal that he didn’t want any trouble.
“You must be the hockey player,” the guy said to him, eyeing him. Sidney took offense to the comment.
“What does that have to do with anything?” Sidney questioned, a hint of anger in his voice. Misty spoke up for the first time then.
“That’s not Mason,” she said, her voice just above a whisper. Okay, what exactly was it about this guy that had Misty acting like this?
“Oh, there’s a new one, huh? Getting passed around the NHL are we now? Did you cheat on the last one too?” the guy spat at her. Sidney didn’t know where this was coming from, but he didn’t like it.
“Hey, I think that’s enough,” he defended Misty.
“Oh, I’m sorry. She hasn’t told you? Misty can’t seem to keep her legs closed,” he accused. Sidney felt rage boiling up in him. It was obvious this guy had dated Misty, and something had happened between them, but that was no excuse. You just didn’t treat girls that way.
“Shut up, Zeke!” Misty suddenly shouted, whipping her head up. After the way Misty had been acting, Sidney was surprised at the outburst. So was Zeke, and he didn’t like it.
“What did you say to me?” he asked. Misty’s head dropped back down, and it looked like she was cowering from him.
“Okay, it’s time to go. Come on, Misty,” Sidney interrupted, putting his arm around Misty and guiding her away from this creep. He could feel her shaking.
“But we’re not done,” Zeke growled, stepping back in front of them, his gaze directly on Misty. He could feel Misty pulling back against his arm, trying to move away from Zeke, but he held her in place.
“I think we are. Get out of the way,” Sidney demanded, clenching his teeth. Zeke’s glare turned to him.
“Sidney, please,” Misty begged in a hushed tone. Sidney watched as a shocked expression followed by a smile crossed Zeke’s face.
“I knew you looked familiar. So Misty’s fucking Sidney Crosby now. Moving up in the world, aren’t we?” Enough was enough. Without responding Sidney tightened his grasp on Misty and dragged her out into the road, through traffic, and crossed the street. “See you around!” he heard Zeke call after them.
Misty moved like she was on autopilot as he guided her up the side streets to his car. She was now clinging to him like she’d collapse to the ground if she let go. Her eyes were cast down to the ground and she seemed to be seeing nothing. He was worried, but he figured the best thing to do was to just get her back to the hotel.
She didn’t say a word the entire car ride back. She just sat motionless as she stared at the dashboard. He was worried. Real worried. He’d never seen her like this. Even the one time he’d seen her cry, well he saw the one tear fall, she hadn’t been catatonic. This guy had done something to her, and he didn’t like it at all.
They pulled up to the hotel and Sidney parked the car. He got out and noticed that Misty hadn’t moved. He walked around to open her door and helped her out of the car. She let him lead her into their room. Once inside she just stopped in the middle of the room. He wasn’t sure what to do. He just wished that she’d do something.
A second later she did. She started to shake as tears began to stream down her face. He rushed over to her and put his arms around her. She buried her head in his shoulder and let the sobs come. He felt her start to slip to the ground. Instead of letting her fall he led her to the bed where she collapsed, pulling him down with her, remaining in his arms.
“It’ll be okay,” he whispered, not really sure if it would or not.
“He tried to kill me,” she announced through tears. He felt his body stiffen in shock. Had he just heard her right?
The moment I’d heard Zeke’s voice, I’d frozen. It had been a few years since I’d seen him and almost as long since I’d heard from him. I knew it had only been that long simply because he had no idea how to find me. There were no mutual friends and I’d completely cut him off long ago. Running into him had been my biggest fear every time I was home, but it hadn’t happened. Not until today.
I only vaguely heard the conversation between Zeke and Sidney on the sidewalk. I was too lost in my fear to follow it. I’d had a momentary burst of courage when I knew Sidney was there, but when Zeke’s eyes glared into mine, I’d lost it. I just needed to get out of there, but I couldn’t make my feet move.
I didn’t even realize I had moved until Sidney helped me into his car. I was too busy reliving all the things Zeke had done to me in our relationship. He’d almost destroyed me. I was almost gone when I’d met Mason. I thought Mason had saved me until I’d later realized he was destroying me too. He’d just done it a whole lot less violently.
My thoughts were interrupted again when I felt Sidney unbuckling my seatbelt. I hadn’t realized he’d already driven away from Lake George and back to the hotel. I let him pull me up to our hotel room. I walked into the middle of the room and heard him closing the door behind me. That was when I realized Zeke couldn’t get me here.
Relief, anger, and anguish flooded through my body and I released them through tears. I didn’t cry often, rather choosing to joke my problems away, but this wasn’t funny. And now I couldn’t make the tears stop. I felt Sidney wrap his arms around me and along with every other emotion I was feeling now, I felt safe.
Sobs escaped my body as I clung to Sidney and I felt my knees go weak, unable to hold me up any longer. Sidney practically carried me over to the bed and I fell to the mattress, bringing him with me. I didn’t want to let go of him. I was afraid to let go of him. I wasn’t ready to have that feeling of safety leave me.
“It’ll be okay,” he whispered as he stroked my hair.
For the first time in my life when I thought of Zeke, I knew it would be. As long as Sidney was in my life, no matter what the capacity, I was going to be okay. I was closer to him than I was with anyone else in my life. I don’t know how that happened or why after only a month and a half I felt that way, but it was there.
I had the burning need to get things out. I’d never told anyone everything about Zeke, not even my family or Mason. It had been too difficult to think about, to relive. I’d kept everything locked inside. For some reason telling Sidney, explaining everything to him, didn’t fill me with dread. It gave me the hope that I could move on.
“He tried to kill me.” I felt Sidney’s body tense as he took in what I said. Just saying that felt like a huge relief.
“What did you say?” he asked a moment later. I pulled away from him and looked at him for the first time. I couldn’t read the expression on his face. I decided instead of just repeating myself that I would start from the beginning.
“Zeke and I met at a party the summer before 11th grade. We started dating. Things were fine for the first few months, but then things slowly started to change. I started hearing stories about him dating other girls. We didn’t go to the same school so I didn’t know what to believe. Each time I confronted him he assured me he wasn’t and had a story to go along with each accusation. The stories came so easily to him that I figured there was no way he could be lying.” I paused after that remembering all those lies and feeling like an idiot for believing them. The tears came again.
“We don’t have to talk about this,” Sidney told me. I shook my head, determined to go on.
“My friends hated him, but I couldn’t understand why. They refused to spend time with him. Pretty soon he’d alienated me from everyone. I just had him and my family, who hated him too. A year into the relationship was when it got really bad. I was fighting with girls I didn’t even know over him. I’d hear Zeke was hooking up with them, and he claimed they wanted him and were trying to break us up by starting rumors. I eventually didn’t even recognize myself. I’d never had an argument with anyone before him, and I was fighting with a dozen girls I’d never even met face to face.
One day when I was at Zeke’s house and he ran to the store I found myself snooping through his things, even though I would never have dreamed of doing that before. I had to know if the stories were true. I found notes, pictures, and internet conversations with all of these girls. When he got home I threw them all at him, screaming, and crying. He pinned me against a wall and bruised my arms. That was the first time he got physical. I was too scared to fight with him. I tried to break up with him later, but he told me he’d kill himself.
I didn’t want to be responsible for that so I stayed. We had another argument after that about where I wanted to go to college. That was the night he really hit me. He elbowed me in the ribs, knocking the wind out of me. Things continued on like that for the rest of the relationship. I was too scared of him to do anything until I went away to college and met Mason. I didn’t tell him everything, but I told him I wasn’t happy. He convinced me to leave Zeke and being a few states away I found the courage to do it.
He began to call and send me messages online and through the mail threatening me. He said he knew where I lived and that when I got home we were going to talk whether I liked it or not. He kept saying that I belonged to him. I just ignored him. Despite what he’d done to me in the past I didn’t think he’d really hurt me.
That summer I was driving home from work late one night when a car came out of nowhere. I was alone on a back road and this car kept flying up onto my bumper before backing off enough to do it again. Then suddenly it flew into the oncoming lane so it was right next to me. Then it veered right at me. I had to hit the brakes and veer off the side of the road to avoid hitting it. I missed slamming head first into a tree by two feet. In the second I’d managed to look over before it happened I saw Zeke in the driver’s seat.”
I stopped there as the fear and memories came back. I began to sob again and Sidney wrapped his arms around me once more. Once again I was crying on his shoulder, letting it all out. I suddenly didn’t care anymore. I just wanted those memories gone and if this was how to get rid of them, it was what I was going to do. I pulled myself together and looked back up at Sidney to finish.
“The rest of the summer I didn’t go anywhere alone. I’d just started to get my old friends back and they wouldn’t let me out of their sight. Mason left school the following year to go pro and asked me to go with him. I know now that I jumped at the chance not because I wanted to go with him but to avoid ever living at home again. All along I thought Mason had saved me from Zeke, but really I went from one trap to another. I left Zeke to escape the abuse and I stayed with Mason to escape Zeke.”
“Jesus, Misty,” Sidney whispered when I finished. He pulled me into another hug, but this time I didn’t cry. Not another tear would ever be shed over Zeke for the rest of my life. “I’m so sorry,” he told me after a moment.
“Don’t be. I did it to myself. At least I can see that. Now I can move on and get myself back.” I looked back at Sidney and forced a small smile on my face. “I’m sorry I dumped all of that on you. I’ve just never told anyone all of that before.”
“I’m glad you did. No one should have to go through that let alone keep it a secret.”
I stood up from the bed and found that after my soul purging I was exhausted. I grabbed a change of clothes and walked into the bathroom to get ready for bed. When I came out Sidney was lying back on the bed, his hands behind his head, dressed in the same shorts he wore to bed the night before, staring up at the ceiling. I got into bed next to him.
“Is there anything I can do?” he asked quietly. There was one thing he could do. I just hoped he would.
“Can you just hold me tonight as I fall asleep?” I saw a flash of something in his eyes that I didn’t recognize. A moment later he nodded.
“I can do that.”
He got under the blankets and pulled me into him. I closed my eyes as I felt new tears forming. This time they didn’t come from pain. In my last waking moments that night I was thankful to have Sidney in my life and savored the feel of his arms around me. With him, I was going to be okay.